DJ Shadow’s latest LP, The Mountain Will Fall, is unforgiving. It is a haphazard psychedelic trip with structure as vague as a Rorschach ink blot. On the Mountain Will Fall, you’re not forced into a genre or an idea. You are left to interpret each track on your own assigning your own thoughts and feelings to the overall sound. Once you think you have it figured out DJ Shadow moves on to something completely different. This isn’t so much a representation of his thinking process as much as his production ability. It includes everything from sonic sounds, to spaghetti western inspired guitars, classic hip-hop boom-bap and remnants of fusion jazz. It contains a collection of handpicked and unique sounds from all over brought together on one large serving plate.
We begin with the title track of the same name, ‘The Mountain Will Fall’. A sonic epic in the stride of music made for Hollywood production companies found in movie intros. The words “now available in Dolby digital” spring to mind. It truly makes sense for ‘The Mountain Will Fall’ to be the start of the album. It has been selectively picked, setting the scene and the mood easing you into what’s about to come. The sound effect of a cassette tape being flipped at the end is a clever nod to the fact that DJ Shadow has been around for a while, so he knows what he’s doing.
Run The Jewels’ El-P and Killa Mike’s relentless back and forth on ‘Nobody Speak’ carries on the bloodline of ’90s hip-hop. Sorely missed boom-bap style dreams with modern day production conventions make it noticeable in an era of trap dominated radio. Oh, and the rapping of course. Just as soon as you think you understand what’s going on the offbeat and snake hissing hats of ‘Three Ralphs’ will instantly throw you off. Again the idea that this is a hip-hop inspired psychedelic trip comes into play. It’s almost as if you don’t know whether you are in a dream or not. The spoken words from Timothy Leary’s “turn on, tune in, drop out“ certainly don’t help either. “Ralph, the time has come, are you ready Ralph? Are you ready, to die?” Certainly, if you are in a dream, at this point it’s hard to tell whether or not it’s a nightmare, but you don’t want to wake up just yet.
‘Bergschrund’ feat. Nils Frahm sounds like a 16-bit video game boss fight, with the hard kicking drums the boss could easily be any iconic rapper from the early 90’s – Tupac’s ghost perhaps seeking vengeance on what’s become of his beloved scene. Furthermore, ‘Bergschrund’ would be a great accompaniment to a modern day Jodorowsky or René Laloux film (my fingers are still firmly crossed the original vision of Dune is made). The vinyl crackle on ‘The Sideshow’ featuring Ernie Fresh with fast paced drums and practical brass sounds are akin to extended version remixes of Paid In Full. This is immediately being added to my classic hip hop iTunes playlist. The album takes you on a Dumbo-esque Disneyland ride. It’s a trance acid hip hop tripe going in all directions of the mood spectrum, with elements of techno all rolled into one. ‘Mambo’ seems like the music they would use in organised future dystopia’s to command the masses. Amongst the lucid instability, ‘Ashes To Oceans’ featuring Matthew Hals reminds you that everything is going to be okay. With hails of swirling oceans and a calming chord progression, ‘Ashes to Oceans’ captures the idea of your happy place. A slight jazz bar sounding ensemble remind you of personal good times and the rapid clapping in the second half gives a taste of live street music. It then elusively takes you to the end. Even though it’s the eigth track it feels like the halfway point of the album.
If Sash! had ‘Ecuador’, DJ Shadow’s ‘California’ is the area anthem. The grime inspired drums on ‘California’; with supporting garage bass and synth make a hard hitting composition. From there we move into attention catching ‘Ghost Town’ and an unknown vocalist provides the gritty “you get toast in ghost town” tagline. ‘Suicide Pact’ makes a great ending to the album. Like any adventure the beginning, the middle and the end need to be distinct. ‘Suicide Pact’ sticks with the overall clear but confusing tone of The Mountain Will Fall with spaced out drums, oriental elements; a fade to end that comes back around just before the track finishes and a sonic bassline. This is where the credits start rolling up and the lights in the theatre come back up and the audience begins to shuffle out.